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Theres a place for you on Thanksgiving

Local groups offer feast and friendship to individuals, families and seniors


by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Conni Leloff, left, and Linda Dobbins volunteered their time serving food during the Tigard Church of Gods Saturday pre-Thanksgiving feast.

Correction appended.

All across the nation, families are sitting down with loved ones to meals of turkey and mashed potatoes, but for local people without any place to go, the holiday can be a sad time.

However, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth on Saturday at the Tigard Church of God, which hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner for anyone interested in having a home-cooked meal.

“We wanted to do something to meet the need,” said Pastor Milt Culver.

The church, located off Southwest Durham Road near Tigard High School, served about 300 Thanksgiving dinners Saturday afternoon.

The dinner has become a tradition at the church on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Now in its third year, the dinner is a way for the church to reach out to the local community, said Culver.

The church put the word out to local senior centers, Tigard High School students, Boy Scout troops and members of the church’s youth and children’s ministries.

“We want to make the community aware that we are here to serve them,” Culver said.

The yearly feast has become a way for local seniors who don’t receive meals on weekends to get a meal and socialize with friends, and provides a place for families in need to spend a few hours.

“We had one family come in last year at 11 a.m. and have lunch, then they left and came back at 3 p.m. to have dinner,” Culver said.

Looking for a Thanksgiving meal? 

There are a few places locally offering a free Thanksgiving meal to families with no place to go this year. 

• Tigard Senior Center — 8815 S.W. O’Mara St. This dinner is open to people of all ages from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Elsie J. Stuhr Center — 5550 S.W. Hall Blvd., in Beaverton. 

This dinner is for people at least 60 years old from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Beaverton Christian Church — 13600 S.W. Allen Blvd. Open to people of all ages from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

There is no shortage of places to gather this Thanksgiving for people looking to get a home-cooked meal.

Beaverton Christian Church is also hosting a holiday meal for members of the community on Thanksgiving and Portland’s Meals on Wheels People — a nonprofit organization that provides warm meals to seniors across the Portland area — is organizing two local Thanksgiving day meals at the Tigard Senior Center and the Elsie J. Stuhr Center in Beaverton

The group has Thanksgiving meals at sites across Portland for 43 years, said Julie Piper Finley, director of marketing and communications for Meals on Wheels People. 

“Thanksgiving is practically a sacred holiday in the U.S.,” Piper Finley said. “It is the one holiday we have that’s all about food and being thankful. For seniors, we serve many who have had an abundance of life experience. They fought in World War II, they worked careers, and these are people who very often have ended up in a place in life where their family is gone or lives far away from them. How can you turn your back and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own?’”

Both Meals on Wheels dinners are open to all ages.

“A lot of people are coming over because they don’t have anyone to have Thanksgiving with,” Piper Finley said.

Dinners at the Meals on Wheels locations run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Meals on Wheels spends its days making sure local seniors have access to warm meals, but Piper Finley said the Thanksgiving dinners do more than just supply food for people. “Fifty percent of it is making sure they have someone to have the dinner with,” she said. 

The agency delivers about 5,000 meals on an average day, Finley Piper added. 

“Thanksgiving is actually a small day for us,” she said. 

The group plans to serve about 1,000 people at its dinner celebrations and is delivering another 1,000 dinners to homebound seniors as part of its regular deliveries. 

The dinner includes all the traditional Thanksgiving delights, Finley Piper said, including roasted turkey and gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams, potato rolls and, of course, pumpkin pie.

“It’s the classic Thanksgiving dinner,” she said, “and you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie.”

Heart of generosity

Back at Tigard Church of God, Culver said they weren’t sure about how much need was out there when they began hosting the dinner and weren’t sure if anyone would show up.

“It was all word of mouth,” he said. “We had about 170 people come.”

That number has grown steadily in the past few years, Culver said.

This year, church members cooked more than two dozen 20-pound turkeys to feed people, as well as pies, mashed potatoes, rolls and all the trimmings.

Culver said he’d like to see the yearly dinner continue to grow.

“I’m hoping that we’ll have to tell people that we ran out of food,” Culver said. “We want to spread the word to Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tualatin, Tigard and Sherwood. Every year I have families come to me and ask, ‘How come more people don’t know about this?’ and I tell them, ‘Well, tell your friends. Every year, the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving.’”

The dinners are meant as a way to give back to the community, Culver said, but he also hopes they change the perception that some people have of churches.

“The purpose of a church is not ‘give me your money,’” Culver said. “A lot of people have an idea that people have to come on Sunday, listen to some boring sermon and are asked to give money, but that’s not why we’re here. We are here to serve people.”

This isn’t the first time the church has held free events for the community.

The church has worked on community service projects around town, hosted a barbecue and offered free car washes.

“We are trying to focus away from inwardness that happens in churches,” Culver said. “I asked this church one question when I came here: ‘If this church was gone tomorrow, would this community miss it?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then we have failed, we need to figure out how we can impact this community.”

The response from the community has been outstanding, Culver said.

“We got enough donations to do double what we need,” Culver said. “People want to help people. That’s not hard to find.”

Members of the congregation donated a lot of the food for the dinner, Culver said. A local restaurant owner also wrote Culver a check to cover some of the costs of the meal.

“There is a heart of generosity out there that is much greater than most people understand,” he said.

Editor's Note: This story originally quoted a spokeswoman with Meals on Wheels People stating that the Thanksgiving dinner at the Elsie Stuhr Center in Beaverton was open to seniors 60 or older. The meal is actually open to people of all ages. The Times regrets the error.



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